Aweil Report: In Juba with Pastor Matthew

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Featured, Field Updates, Nations, Prayer, South Sudan | 1 comment

Aweil Report: In Juba with Pastor Matthew

Aerial View of Juba

Thursday, February 7
Thursday, we waited for our truck to arrive in Juba. We had passed them on the road beyond Rumbek, and though they had a mechanical breakdown in Aweil, they assured us that all was mended well enough to reach home. With no phone contact, we waited and prayed. They slowly limped into Juba 24 hours later, but were – praise God – safe and sound! They had had an engine breakdown on the road in a small and very remote trading center. Our skilled driver had used rubber strips to “tie” together the frame and spring which had broken on the front of the truck. The radiator was leaking, so they found someone who could do a little “portable welding” and fill the holes enough to make it home. Other things broke down as well but were mended with small pieces of wire or rubber, in order to keep the truck going a “few more miles!”

After reaching Juba, there were still hundreds of kilometers till home. They would have to drive another eight hours to Gulu and then six back to Kampala to return the truck: a five day journey in all! (We could have flown to the US and back, in the time it took us to get one-way to Aweil!)

As our team of five waited in Juba for our truck to arrive, we met and prayed with one of our pastor friends, who oversees one of the oldest church plants in the Juba area. He was hosting a pastor who had just been released from captivity in Khartoum, Sudan, four days prior to our arrival. Pastor Matthew’s (I have changed his name) story was astounding and heartbreaking.

Pastor Matthew’s Story:

Matthew is a Sudanese, middle-aged man who has been in Khartoum for almost 20 years. He is highly trained in technology and has numerous skills which he used to develop successful businesses in that city.

He has been born-again for many years and has given his life to preaching the Word of God in now Islamic, northern Sudan. Using his own resources and business profits, he has worked tirelessly for the past eighteen years to get the Gospel into hands of hungry, unreached people through education, printed material, businesses, and humanitarian projects.

He teaches the Word of God moving throughout Khartoum and other districts of Sudan, to bring teaching, encouragement, literature, and “Christian”education material for use in school systems throughout the region.

We were unaware of the intense persecution of Christians and opposition to the Gospel that had now permeated northern Sudan (as a nation). The Bible Society, which we intended to work with in Khartoum, has been closed down. Hundreds of Christian humanitarian organizations and mission works of all kinds have been shut down, and hundreds of expatriates deported.

The City of Khartoum

African Churches have come under great scrutiny. Those doing any outreaches, education, or “projects” have already been shut down, and their Sudanese leaders have been forced to return to South Sudan. Many believers have already been tortured and killed for their faith, unless they willingly renounce Christianity.

Because of Matthew’s high level of skill, intelligence, and work amongst so many Christian organizations, he was under intense surveillance.  He had been arrested and released many times over the last few years, but this last arrest was the worst.

During his last imprisonment, he was was kept for 28 days and tortured severely. For fourteen of those days, he was in solitary confinement in a cement dungeon with only one small hole towards the top of the roof, where just enough dry bread was shoved through to keep him alive. He never saw a face, heard a voice, or knew of anything going on around him for those fourteen days, as he awaited his fate, which he assumed, unless God chose to spare him, would be death.

He had only been out of confinement for four days when we sat with him in Juba. Our team listened with tears in their eyes, as we gently asked him questions about Sudan, and what he had been through. When we reached the part of his torture, he said, “I can’t tell it all. It’s still too painful, and I will break.”

He said he tried singing one day, just to stay sane, and he was severely beaten, discovering that he was watched 24/7 by hidden cameras in his cell. He couldn’t make a sound. He could only sit hour after hour for those endless days. When bread was dropped through the little hole, he would pick it up to eat just the portion that wasn’t too dirty, and his only drinking water came from a little ‘toilet’ in the room.

After he was brought out, he was given a choice. He could immediately sign over all his property, businesses, and bank accounts to the Arab government leaders and await his fate (he wasn’t told what it would be), or he could go right back into confinement. He chose to sign over all he owned in Khartoum. He was deported the next morning by the authorities and threatened with death if he ever returned to the country.

God’s Call

Matthew shared so many more details of his painful story, we dare not recount them all. If it hadn’t been for the security concerns and the fresh and painful wounds in his heart, I would have captured his story on the recorder. But even so, it was such a holy time. God was there and had once again intervened to spare this precious son of his – rather than choose him for martyrdom – for a purpose only He yet knows.

But as he continued to share, we began to see reasons that his life was spared. As Matthew recounted the death and suffering of one believer after another, he said unflinchingly, “I will yet go back in, if God allows me to.”

The Nation of Sudan. Please pray for it’s people!

“It’s not about organization, humanitarian efforts, or even our own strategies that are going to reach the darkest and most dangerous areas with the Gospel. It’s just about Jesus. Loving Him so dearly, we choose to be as abandoned and selfless as He was for the cause of love – far beyond a human calling. It must be a selfless abandonment of the heart. These are the ones God will use to win these hardened and desperately needy Islamic nations. It’s not about training or any other strategy – it’s just about Jesus – on fire, and sold out, preaching Him up and down every single village, with signs, wonders, and miracles that no one can refute. It must be the Word with the miracles, and nothing less. Only this will win these resistant nations.”

He wiped the tears from his eyes, as he said it again. “It’s only Jesus. It’s only about Him, nothing else. And I would go back again, and give my life for Him, if He opens the door for me to do so. There’s an urgency – not about us, but about Him.”

He continued, “There is such an urgency to get the Gospel out there! Lord keep me from my own agenda! We need more faith filled believers. When will we see them? Our organization or planned agendas are not getting the Gospel to them fast enough. They are desperate. The areas are dangerous regions, still un-penetrated, and filled with suffering, opposition to truth, and torture for the sake of Jesus. But we must go.”

“It’s Jesus, and Jesus only – His life! His lifestyle! We must plant the seeds – that’s our responsibility – seeds of life, power, and truth, and God will make them grow!”

Matthew said he didn’t know whether most of his believing friends and pastors he was working with, or those that risked their lives to go into villages and other areas of the city to preach Jesus, were even still alive. He said, “I don’t know if they are even there, but God does.”

Then he pleaded for prayer: “If we, as Christians could just pray for one hour a day, to get the Gospel of Jesus into these hard areas, what would God really do? Do we care enough to pray like that?”

We sat there speechless, silent, and convicted. We were sitting in the presence of another hero of great, great faith. As we prayed with Matthew that day, we cried out for more urgency within our own hearts, for greater faith, for the unknown suffering believers. We never hear their name or what to pray for, but God knows. We prayed for the underground church in these Muslim nations and for God to raise up many, many more soldiers of faith, including ourselves, who would be willing to “Go!”

After sitting with this pastor, I realized we had paid no price at all for the journey we had just completed.

Please, church, pray!! Pray with us, for our mission here: to raise an army. Ourselves included, we must go north! Time is short, and this urgency in the spirit is not from man, it’s from God!

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One Comment

  1. I will pray and if God wants me to be part of this salvation of others, let me know God what you want me to do.

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